I want to draw a box around a group of vertices and then have them be selected. The "Direct Selection" tool can do this, but only if you start your click outside of a object. If you start your click inside of an object, it acts like the "Selection" tool and drags the clicked object.

I've tried searching for a hotkey I can hold to tell Illustrator I want the direct selection tool to retain it's normal functionality of drawing a box when clicking and dragging, but I could not find a way to do that.

How does one box select a group of vertices in Illustrator?

3 Answers 3


Use the Lasso Tool (Q)

Draw a path around the objects you want selected.

If you want to select specific vertices inside of one object, you would first have to enter the object by double-clicking the object and then use the Lasso Tool.

If you want to select several vertices of several objects, hold down the shift key when using the tool.

  • Is there a selection box version of lasso tool? Lasso tools aren't particularly accessible due to how much hand eye coordination, and how unforgiving they are to mistakes. Commented May 30, 2023 at 21:12
  • @LibrarySeph lasso tool is good if your using a digitizer tablet as a pen has less hand eye coordination strain. (once you learn to use one, which is not a granted feature. Indeed theres a class full of cinixes next to my office. And while it sees users only maybe 1 user ever uses the cintix for anything other than a fance second or third monitor per day.)
    – joojaa
    Commented May 31, 2023 at 7:16

There is a on option for this. Go to Edit → Preferences → Selection and Anchor Display... and check the option Object selection by path only. Now you can do what you ask. General usability goes down though, but this essentially brings outline mode to non outlined artwork.

I wish adobe would give two options for this one for black selection tool and one for white arrow one. But i digress..

If you need to do this a lot i would suggest you script a shortcut for this. Although the scripting interface of setting settings is largely undocumented so it may take a while of reading config files to figure out what key to change.

  • If it was possible to have this option separate for black and white selection tool, this would be the perfect solution. It may still be good enough as most everything done for lasers already has transparent fill. Commented May 31, 2023 at 18:23

The "Direct Selection" tool can do this, but only if you start your click outside of a object. If you start your click inside of an object, it acts like the "Selection" tool and drags the clicked object.

Let's fix this part:

  • Hit CTRL+Y and you will enter Outline mode (also via main menu → View → Outline).
  • In this mode, fills are not displayed, you will only see the edges of your shapes. Which means you can click "inside an object" and drag for a selection of anchor points, without moving the actual object.
  • While building your selection of multiple anchor points, experiment with holding down SHIFT (add extra anchors to selection) or ALT (add all current object anchors to selection).
  • Testing this out, outline mode no longer displays image content. This will make it very difficult to outline things. Commented May 30, 2023 at 21:18
  • If you're tracing images, you need to establish a workflow, eg. using locked layers, or locked objects, or blending modes, or applying fills at later stages. There should be some priority in using these tools. I can't be very specific, because there's not enough detail in the question.
    – Lucian
    Commented May 30, 2023 at 21:21
  • That's fair. In my case, I have a reference image and a vector. I'm attempting to move multiple vector points at once in order to better match the reference image. Commented May 30, 2023 at 21:37
  • Reference image goes on locked layer. Work on the vector shape on another layer. Work without fills, so you can see through you vector shape while making adjustments. Use a red or black stroke so the shape stands out. When done with adjustments, THEN fill your shape with color. You can also use SHIFT+X to quickly invert between fill / stroke while work is in progress.
    – Lucian
    Commented May 31, 2023 at 5:49
  • @LibrarySeph well, in general you should become comfortable with the lock object shortcut, ctrl/command+2 you can then unlock it with ctrl+alt/command+option+2. But for tracing you should use a layer set to reference that allows you to dim the traced image. this makes it easier to differentiate between trace vs done. And yes generally fills go last so you can see stuff.
    – joojaa
    Commented May 31, 2023 at 7:14

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